Nexceris’ chemistry wizard helps turn Earth green

Judy Garzanich got her start in science as a fallback career when the gig she really wanted was unavailable.

“When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be a wizard, and I was crushed when I got old enough to realize that wasn’t possible,” Garzanich remembered. “While in high school, my chemistry teacher performed and had us perform fun experiments that got me interested in chemistry, and I realized it was the closest I could get to using magic as an adult.”

One experiment she was able to conduct in high school was particularly memorable for Garzanich.

“Our teacher bubbled natural gas through a mixture of dish soap and water to make flammable bubbles,” she said. “We then completely soaked our hands and forearms in water and held a handful of the bubbles in our hands. She lit them with a lighter, and you get to feel/hold the fire without being injured because the water on your hands evaporates and forms an insulating layer between you and the fire. So very, very cool.”

That teacher and her advanced biology teacher are two who initially piqued her interest in the sciences, saying they were both smart, capable women who fostered in her a true appreciation for science and a talent for scientific curiosity.

Garzanich said her mother was her mentor, “She is a strong, confident woman who worked her way from an entry-level accountant to a Chief Financial Officer at a nonprofit during her career,” Garzanich said. “She taught me to stand up for myself and be confident in my abilities.”

Today, Garzanich is a type of wizard. She is an engineer at Nexceris, a Lewis Center, Ohio-based company focusing on renewable energies. She and her colleagues are working to turn our world green, one day at a time, with her efforts. She said she believes the widespread implementation of renewable energy in the last decade has been one of science’s most outstanding achievements. That solar and wind farms are becoming increasingly common, and renewable energy, in general, will be essential to powering the world in the coming years is a true global accomplishment for the scientific community. In the next 10 years, Garzanich wants her colleagues to focus on closed-loop recycling for all plastic and silicone products.

Garzanich has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Ohio State University. Her sister is currently at OSU studying engineering, as well. A bit of sisterly mentoring is taking place, and Garzanich looks forward to much more of that as she becomes more established in her career.

“Outreach towards young kids is important, but I believe the follow through when girls reach high school and college age is lacking,” she said. “It’s easy to get kids interested in science, but there are so many potential barriers to a career in STEM for women that only occur in the high school, college, and early portions of the career that would be eased with an experienced mentor and a cohort of peers they can rely on. These barriers include practical considerations like college tuition/scholarships and social considerations like isolation, discrimination from peers, and institutionalized barriers to a STEM career. I want to be a part of the solution.”

International Women & Girls in Science Day celebrates trailblazers like Judy Garzanich, who paves the way for future generations.